20 Best Oscar Winning Movies on Netflix Right Now

January 30, 2019
13 min read

Netflix has amassed an enviable collection of films, tv series and documentaries from all over the world. The streaming service has also managed to gather steam behind it with its first Oscar nomination in the Best Picture category in the form of ‘Roma’. With the Oscars being just around the corner it’s the right time to binge watch some of the greatest Oscar-winning movies available on Netflix right now. Below is the list of Academy Award winning movies that you should definitely plan to check out. Remember that not all of these movies won Best Picture Oscar, but most of them did win multiple other Oscars. You can also watch several of these really good Oscar-winning movies on Hulu or Amazon Prime.

20. Searching For Sugar Man (2012)

Searching for Sugar Man’ tells the incredible true story of Rodriguez, the greatest ’70s rock icon who never was. Discovered in a Detroit bar in the late ’60s by two celebrated producers struck by his soulful melodies and prophetic lyrics, they recorded an album which they believed would secure his reputation as the greatest recording artist of his generation. In fact, the album bombed and the singer disappeared into obscurity amid rumors of a gruesome on-stage suicide. But a bootleg recording found its way into apartheid South Africa and, over the next two decades, he became a phenomenon.

The film follows the story of two South African fans who set out to find out what really happened to their hero. An unbelievable and fascinating story of a forgotten genius, ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ is a film that wins you with its infectious charm and unforgettable music, very much like the man on whom the movie is based. It’s also uplifting, overwhelming to watch a legend get his due, and don’t be surprised if you find a tear or two trickling down your eyes.

19. Dr. Zhivago (1965)

Doctor Zivago

David Lean’s masterpiece and one of the greatest love stories to have been portrayed on celluloid, ‘Dr Zhivago’ is an epic romantic war film. The love story of Dr. Yuri Zhivago, played by Omar Sharif and Lara Antipova, played by Julie Christie, takes place between the years of political turmoil in Russia and spans across the February Revolution, Russian Civil War and the first world war. While the lovers meet, get separated and meet again after years, with the ever-changing political dynamics of the war tormented Russia playing the truant spoilsport, which’s tragic as well as fascinating.

18. Milk (2008)

‘Milk’ is an exceptional biographical work, depicting the life and struggles of politician and gay rights activist, Harvey Milk. Directed by Gus Van Sant and spearheaded by Sean Penn, the film uses past footages and a great script to drive home Milk’s works. He was the first openly gay politician to hold a public office in California and was instrumental in establishing gay rights in America. The film traces Milk’s political journey filled with setbacks and success and his personal equation with conservative, Dan White. ‘Milk’ got many Oscar nominations and the highlight being Sean Penn winning the award for best performance in a leading role.

17. The Aviator (2004)

Another great biographical drama, this time directed by the legendary filmmaker, Martin Scorsese. Howard Hughes was a filmmaker, businessman, and aviation expert. He produced ‘Hell’s Angels’, had a serious relationship with Audrey Hepburn, had fights with powerful political senators and was even accused as a war profiteer. He founded Trans World Airlines (TWA) and led it through many competitors. The film is made with great sincerity by Scorsese, bringing out the mental strength and vulnerability of Hughes through DiCaprio’s mesmerizing performance that granted him an Oscar nomination.

16. The Pianist (2002)

Roman Polanski directed this amazing anti-war film depicting the life of a Jewish pianist during the Holocaust. It is based on the memoirs of Holocaust survivor, pianist Władysław Szpilman. Szpilman’s pain and suffering are vividly exuded by Polanski’s own childhood horror of watching Poland going through the torture of World War II. Szpilman goes through displacement, Warsaw’s devastation and gets estranged from his family. He survives by hiding inside many secret locations amidst the ruins of Warsaw with the help of a few good people and ultimately survives the nightmarish phase, albeit with many loses. Polanski expertly showcases the pains of the Holocaust and an artist’s emotional insecurities in war. Adrien Brody won Best Performance in a lead role award because of his nuanced portrayal of Szpilman.

15. The King’s Speech (2010)

‘The King’s Speech’ is a historical film directed by Tom Hooper where Colin Firth plays the titular role of King George VI, the father of Queen Elizabeth II. After his brother is rendered unsuitable to ascend the throne because of his relationship with a divorcee, Prince Albert reluctantly ascends the throne and becomes King George VI. However, he has a peculiar and nagging problem – his stammering. The monarch’s obvious need to have great oratorical skill made his wife to hire Australian actor and speech expert, Lionel Logue. The two men struck great friendship as Logue’s innovative ways finally helped King George VI to overcome his stammering. It took home major awards in 83rd Academy Awards.

14. The Departed (2006)

Martin Scorsese finally got his long-awaited Best Director Oscar with ‘The Departed’ which is a remake of ‘Infernal Affairs’. A cat and mouse thriller, the film emphasizes the significant themes of metaphorical rats in gangs and ratting secrets out for personal benefits. Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen and above all Jack Nicholson as boss Frank Costello present an exemplary set of performance. The seedy underworld of Boston’s organized crime being run by Irish-American gangs is vividly portrayed as the loyalties shift as fast as people drop dead.

13. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ is the first part of mega fantasy adventure series that was also an award show darling. Based on the books of J. R. R. Tolkien, Peter Jackson created a universe of middle Earth, grander than anything in cinematic space before that. The general narrative follows the mystery of the One Ring of the Dark Lord Sauron. Frodo, a hobbit has been tasked to destroy the ring by taking a journey to the Cracks of Doom. He is accompanied by his three hobbit friends, Gandalf, and elves. They undergo many adventures, fantastic obstacles, and capricious dark powers as they head to their destination. The film received a record thirteen nominations at the Oscars, winning four.

12. Lincoln (2012)

It’s 1865. The American Civil War is coming to a whimpering end. US president Abraham Lincoln is facing a peculiar crisis. Already on his second term, a widely popular Lincoln is caught between his dilemma of acquiring enough votes, especially from the Democrats that will abolish slavery from the States for forever. On the other hand, the ongoing Civil War has claimed many lives so he must end it as soon as possible. But he’s running against time here. The film showcases the versatility of Spielberg’s magical work behind the camera. But most importantly, it will be remembered for Daniel Day-Lewis’ great performance that fetched him his fourth Oscar.

11. Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

‘Dallas Buyers Club’ is a story set in 1985, a time when the world has started to realize the effect of AIDS. Ron Woodroof is an electrician living in Texas, leading his decadent lifestyle with booze, cocaine, and sex with shady women. He is soon infected with HIV and has approximately 30 days to live. A racist and homophobic to the core, Ron’s initial anger and denial are changed into a desperate need to do something about it. He meets Rayon( Jared Leto), a drug-addicted, HIV+ trans woman. Rayon talks about an underdeveloped drug AZT that is being used as an experiment against government order. They establish the Dallas Buyers Club and things become more complex. Both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto received Oscars for their roles.

10. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Pat Solitano has encountered a series of mental issues as he struggles from bipolar disorder. He tries to change his life for good and get back with his estranged wife Nikki under the care of his parents. Pat meets Tiffany, a widow with her own set of issues. Tiffany is suffering from depression. These two grapple to find and hold onto the connecting thread of sanity as they grow closer. Their mental illness and familial pressure affect their own growth while they both try to find the silver lining beyond the cloudy sky. Both Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are amazing in their role and Lawrence also won the Oscar for that.

9. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Before Guillermo del Toro finally struck gold with ‘The Shape of Water’ he came very close with ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. In the post Civil War in Spain, Franco’s ghost is still looming large. The film is basically a fantasy drama that has some really dark elements. We have a small girl named Ofelia who travels with her sick pregnant mother to her stepfather, a captain of a ship. In the night, she’s taken to a labyrinth. She meets the faun who believes that she is Princess Moanna of the ancient fairy tale. Ofelia is instructed to perform three tasks in order to meet her father but she is made to face many struggles as issues over the board increases.

8. Her (2013)

Spike Jonze’s ‘Her’ is one of freshest take on the tired romance genre. Set in a futuristic Los Angeles, Theodore Twombly, played by an incredible Joaquin Phoenix, is a typical no one. He is a middle-aged slouching commoner going through a post-divorce crisis. He is introduced to a companion, based on artificial intelligence. The operating system or artificial ‘consciousness’ as it is advertised, is named Samantha. Voiced by incredibly seductive Scarlett Johansson, Samantha becomes closer to Theodore as he loses his sense of reality and virtual emotions. Samantha’s highly developed intelligence tries to provide insights for Theodore’s inner conflicts and his confused state as the profound yet complex ending leaves the audience in a trance.

7. No Country for Old Men (2007)

Based on Cormac McCarthy’s book by the same name, ‘No Country for Old Men’ is Coen brothers’ masterpiece. Essentially an excellent crime thriller, the film is set in 1980 Texas. Llewelyn Moss, a hunter, discovers a large pool of money and decides to keep them to himself. Anton Chigurh, a cold-blooded murderer is set after the money. He mercilessly kills anyone that comes in front of him with his very unique weapon. Moss desperately tries to stay ahead of him but Chigurh is closing in, stoically. Javier Bardem was at the peak of his performance as he made Chigurh a living embodiment of evil. Both Coen brothers and Bardem were awarded Oscars.

6. Schindler’s List (1993)

Often touted as one of the greatest war films ever made, ‘Schindler’s List’ doesn’t need much introduction. An excellent holocaust epic, ‘Schindler’s List’ was the pinnacle of Spielberg’s magic. Oskar Schindler is a cunning German businessman who witnesses the persecution of  Jewish and polish people under Nazi Germany’s command. He starts hiding Jews as his factory workers and goes to great trouble to ensure the safety of as many people as possible. He saved almost an entire generation of Jewish people and he still regretted that he couldn’t save more. It received 12 Oscar nominations, winning seven.

5. L. A. Confidential (1997)

A sleek and sophisticated crime thriller, ‘L.A. Confidential’ exposes the corruption and debauchery of 1950s Los Angeles. Three cops Jack Vincennes, Bud White and Ed Exley with three different character traits and methods, investigate a series of murders that is eliminating a mob boss’ gang members. A typical noir thriller, as they investigate, they start to unravel past incidents and their inner conflicts culminating in a tense climax. The film acquired nine Oscar nominations, winning two.

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4. Pulp Fiction (1994)

The influence of Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction’ on pop culture can hardly be denied. We have four seemingly unrelated incidents that are interwoven with each other to form a tale of crime and punishment. Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield are two hitmen ordered by their mob boss Marcellus Wallace to retrieve a stolen briefcase, on the other hand, Vincent is tasked with providing a good time for Marcellus’ wife Mia Wallace in Marcellus’ absence. Butch Coolidge is an aging fighter bribed to lose a fight and two thieves decide to rob the cafe they are sitting in. What follows is an insanely funny, absurd and bloody tale full of iconic moments.

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3. The Third Man (1949)

Holly Martins is a struggling pulp fiction novelist who has been offered a job by his old friend Harry Lime. Holly arrives in Vienna which is in shambles. Allied-occupied Vienna is divided into four sectors by victorious allies. Racketeering and black market are thriving in Vienna as Martins finds that his friend has mysteriously died just before his arrival in a traffic accident. He sets out to investigate his friend’s death as inconsistent stories lead to dark secrets of Lime.

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2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ is one of the best romantic film of 21st century. Jim Carrey produces a surprisingly mature and nuanced performance that threatens to outshine even Kate Winslet. A love story with a complex sci-fi twist, the film tells the story of Joel Barish, a depressing and unassuming guy, and Clementine, a bubbly and weird girl with her own sets of problems. They meet, they fall in love and they decide to erase themselves from each other’s minds. Joel realizes that he still loves her and his past figments of her rushes through. The film very maturely treats existential crisis and complex nature of people’s emotions resulting in Oscar nods.

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1. Apocalypse Now (1979)

The grandeur and magnitude of ‘Apocalypse Now’ is discernible through the hardships of Francis Ford Coppola that warrants a standalone movie altogether. It’s a grand tale of US army Captain Willard’s (Martin Sheen) journey through dense forest and river of Cambodia to eliminate rogue Colonel Walter Kurtz (Marlon Brando) during the pinnacle of Vietnam war. The film shows the first-hand depiction of raw war, unflinching atrocities in both sides and two moral views of two leads. The film and especially Marlon Brando’s performance is guaranteed to haunt you for days. It was nominated for 8 categories, winning 2 Oscars.

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